I have wanted to visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius for some time so when we visited the Amalfi Coast my first day trip was to Pompeii. Pompeii is one of the most spectacular and magnificent archaeological sites in the Europe.
Pompeii was famously ruined in A.D. 79 when mighty Mount Vesuvius blew its top and is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. If you are a history junky visiting Pompeii should definitely be on your Italy bucket. Peering into the crater of Mount Vesuvius and strolling the streets of Pompeii are both absolutely unforgettable experiences.
This guide to visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius will cover everything you need to know before you go, how to get there, also advice on one of the most popular questions asked about visiting which is should you book a tour for visiting Pompeii, and the best time to visit Pompeii?
Where is Pompeii?
The world famous Pompeii is 150 miles south of Rome and not far from the coast of Naples. If you are staying in Praiano, Positano or Amalfi, you’ll have to travel first to Sorrento to take public transportation to Pompeii and Herculaneum. You can do as I did which was book a day trip to Pompeii through Viator tours – they picked me up directly from Hotel Onda Verde which is where I was staying during my time on the Amalfi Coast.
If you do not want to purchase a private tour to Pompeii the Sita bus will drop you right in front of the Circumvesuviana train station in Sorrento. Buses depart about every 30 minutes from Sorrento, with stops along the route at the Pompeii and Herculaneum sites.
- From Sorrento to Pompeii: 30 minutes
- From Sorrento to Herculaneum: 50 minutes
Getting to Pompeii independently
For independently minded travellers using public transport the trip is going to involve a trip on Circumvesuviana train from Naples or Sorrento to Pompeii Scavia train station, crudely half way long the route about 30 minutes from either.
What to Know Before Visiting Pompeii
You’ll want to dedicate several hours to Pompeii.
Visiting Pompeii is different from visiting the ruins in Rome. Pompeii is extremely well-preserved which means it will take hours to tour Pompeii. You will be able to tour the forum, courthouse, amphitheater but do not forget Pompeii is full of hidden treasures you wouldn’t expect to find in an ancient city like a fast-food restaurant, brothels, homes, kitchens and functioning vineyard that is still is use today!
I recommend spending a minimum of 5 hours in Pompeii if you are interested in the history of Ancient Rome or Pompeii I promise you will not be disappointed. I know 5 hours seems like a long time but you do not want to rush the tours of Pompeii.
Pompeii opening times?
Pompeii is open every day except 25th December, 1st January and 1st May.
From 1st April to 31st October the site is open 9.00 – 7.30pm (with last entrance 6pm).
At other times the site is open 9.00 – 5:30 pm (with last entrance 3.30pm).
Do you need a private Pompeii tour / audio guides?
If you want to understand what you are seeing make you really will need a guided tour. There is no way you will be understand how the people of Pompeii lived, their daily lives, and the aftermath of Mount Vesuvius.
Hours and Tickets To Pompeii
- 1 November to 31 March: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- 1 April to 31 October: 9:00am – 7:30pm
- Open daily; closed 1 January and 25 December
- Pompei: Ticket price EUR 15 for Pompeii, discounts: EUR 7.50 (students between 18 and 24 and teachers). Free for children under 18.
- Herculaneum: Ticket price EUR 11 for Pompeii, discounts: EUR 5.50 (students between 18 and 24 and teachers). Free for children under 18.
- Free entrance the first Sunday of each month
- You can purchase a pass for both sites for EUR 20
How to Enter Pompeii
There are three main gates to enter Pompeii. Two entrance gates are at the south western corner of the Pompeii, one by the Circumvesuviana train station, and the last entrance is where all the buses drop off passengers.
Pompeii is not and I repeat is not an amusement park so you will not have luxe facilities which will provide 5 course meals, ice cream for the kiddos, and a lounging area for you to relax when your feet get tired. There is just one small restaurant and rest room facility in the middle of the Pompeii plus rest rooms at the entrances.
Pompeii is hot AF! Think back to a time when you have felt like your skin was melting off and double that. Pompeii has minimal shade so it is imperative you bring the following:
- A bottle of water (that you can refill at one of the many water fountains);
- A sun hat;
- A map of the site, available free at the entrance.
Visiting Pompeii requires a ton of walking, and the cobblestone streets are painful to walk on so this is not the time to be cute. Save your feet the pain and anguish by wearing comfortable walking shoes especially if you’re going to be visiting Mount Vesuvius on the same day. check out my post on What to pack for Italy.
Bring a Snack
There are not a ton of food options so please make sure you bring a snack. There is a picnic area in Pompeii for you to sit down for a break, rest your feet and recharge. If you forget to bring a snack there is a restaurant in Pompeii that is located near the forum but be advised the prices are high and there are not a lot of options on the menu.
What To See In The Ancient City of Pompeii
Before Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD, Pompeii was an important port town for the ancient Roman empire, which controlled the entire Mediterranean Sea. Middle class, Pompeii was a classic port town filled with sailor’s hotels, bars, public baths, taverns, and brothels.
Pompeii tours will take visitors to the formerly bustling city of Pompeii to provide guest the best look at ancient Roman life. Our first stop was to see the Roman Forum then on to the theatre, whose acoustics are so good you don’t even need a microphone to be heard. Next, we headed over to the public baths which have larger than life columns and lastly was the amphitheater which was Built-in 70 A.D., the Anfiteatro is the oldest-known Roman amphitheater in existence.
Our tour guide walked us through the moments in the daily life of these ancient people, who were at the same time surprisingly modern. Remains of ‘take-out’ restaurants, brothels, homes, and shops all retain telling elements that let you know what went on in that very spot, simple and poignant signs of life speaking of an unfinished past.
It’s kind of hard not to imagine Pompeii’s people walking around you, going about their daily business. Our guide was careful to reconstruct all of this for us, turning each ruin into a living monument.
Additional Site at Pompeii
The House of Faun
Next was The House of the Faun which was built in the 2nd century BC during the Samnite period (200 – 80 BC. Although the eruption was devastating, the layers of ash covering the abandoned town preserved artworks, like the mosaics of the House of the Faun, which would have otherwise been likely destroyed or decayed due to the passage of time.
The House of the Faun was named for the bronze statue of the dancing faun, a basin for catching rainwater; it has been moved to the center of the impluvium, as seen in the picture below.
Villa of the Mysteries
Next on our tour was the Villa of the Mysteries or Villa dei Misteri. The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence. Although covered with ash the villa sustained only minor damage in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the majority of its walls, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived largely undamaged.
The Villa had both very fine rooms for dining and entertaining and more functional spaces. A wine-press was discovered when the Villa was excavated and has been restored to its original location. It was not uncommon for the homes of the very wealthy to include areas for the production of wine, olive oil, or other agricultural products, especially since many elite Romans owned farmland or orchards in the immediate vicinity of their villas
The ownership of the Villa is unknown, as is the case with many private homes in the city of Pompeii. However, certain artifacts give tantalizing clues. A bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, a freedman of the powerful Istacidii family.
The Stabian Baths
This is the oldest preserved bath in Pompeii and you can also see a few preserved bodies here as well. The Stabian bath also includes an area for wrestling and a large Olympic-sized swimming pool.
House of the Small Fountain
The House of the Small Fountain is a stunning home with oversized back room where you can see frescoes, mosaic fountain and a beautiful atrium.
Garden of the Fugitives
There are 13 bodies in the garden which reflect the horrible final moments of the city. It felt uneasy looking at bodies frozen time but I couldn’t turn away.
Right next to the amphitheater, the “great palace” which was an exercise park that was used for sports and games.
House of Sallustio
This is the oldest house in Pompeii. Our guide told us it was most likely an inn and there is a small garden and covered porch in the back along with a fresco of the goddess Diana.
When To Visit Pompeii
I suggest visiting Pompeii in the summer months but be advised it be hotter than hell and extremely busy. If the heat is not your thing consider visiting in the off season (May or October) in order to avoid the heat and crowds but still have nice weather.
I visited Pompeii in early June and the hubby and I spent approximately 6 or 7 hours touring Pompeii and it felt like we need another 3 or 4 hours. My husband is a history geek and he could have spent our entire Italy vacation visiting ruins.
Pompeii Tours and ticketing
You can order Pompeii tickets and tours in advance. No need to stand in long lines.
Pompeii now offers the first Sunday of the month free in the off peak season which is October to March. Pompeii will offer 8 additional free days. The 2019 dates are:
- 30 March
- 25 April
- 8 May
- 8 June
- 24 October
- 24 December
- 26 December
- 31 December
Watch The Video of Pompeii Ruins
Additional Tips for visiting the Amalfi Coast
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Hopper or Google Flight Matrix. They are my “go to” booking sites for airlines.
Book Your Accommodation
I suggest booking your hotel with Tripadvisor or Jetsetter. I always find the cheapest hotels rates on both of these sites. My favorite place to stay in Amalfi was Hotel Onda Verde. Hotel Onda Verde is Praiano which is not as crowded and overpriced as Positano and an excellent location for day trips to Capri or Naples.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I can’t say this enough but please get insurance when traveling to Italy! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Florence, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
Make sure to get your insurance before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend Travelex Insurance.
Conclusion of Pompeii
Towards the end of the tour, we congregated in the ancient Forum where the half-standing columns and structures of Pompeii’s most important political and social center stand silently against the shadowy backdrop of the volcano.
Pompeii’s horrific end was the most interesting aspect of this ancient Roman town but by the end of this tour it was rather Pompeii’s life, it’s daily existence that became the most captivating story.
Before you end your visit to Pompeii, turn around and take one last look at the impressive view of Mount Vesuvius in the distance. 2,000 years ago the still-active volcano erupted a cloud of gas, ash, and rocks. For hours it spewed, causing most of the residents to flee.
It took just one moment for the eruption to change and an avalanche of lava and rock to race down the mountainside toward Pompeii. Though Vesuvius destroyed the city, it also effectively preserved it, stopping life in Pompeii in its track and providing us with most everything we know about the ancient town.
If you are thinking of Pompeii tours you will not be sorry! Pompeii is the kind of place that sticks with you long after your trip is over and the trip from Sorrento to Pompeii will be forever etched in our memories.
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